Debt Collection and the FDCPA
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) is a law which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect a debt from you. The statute defines abusive, unfair and deceptive means to cover a wide range of conduct. The following are examples of practices which debt collectors are prohibited from doing (with some caveats) when trying to collect a debt:
- Threatening to harm you or your reputation
- Using obscene, profane language
- Repeatedly calling your telephone number or allowing it to ring continuously
- Calling before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Calling any place or during any time that is inconvenient to the consumer
- Calling at the consumer’s place of employment if the collector has reason to know the employer prohibits such
- Calling the consumer if the collector knows the consumer has an attorney
- Calling without properly identifying himself or herself, unless the call is to try to locate the consumer
- Communicating by phone or in writing after the consumer refuses, in writing, to pay the debt, or requests that the debt collector cease communicating
- Falsely representing or implying that he or she is affiliated with the United States
- Falsely representing the character, amount, or legal status of the debt
- Falsely representing or implying that he or she is an attorney or employed by a consumer reporting agency
- Threatening to take any action that is not legal or intended to be taken
- Falsely stating that nonpayment of any debt will result in arrest or imprisonment, garnishment of wages, or seizure property
- Falsely representing that the sale of the debt to another agency will cause the consumer to lose a claim or a defense to payment
- Falsely representing something to disgrace the consumer
- Communicating or threatening to communicate false credit information
- Using written communications which are falsely made to look like an official, court, or state agency document
- Failing to disclose in an initial communication, that “the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose” and in subsequent communications failing to state that the communication is from a debt collector
- Using any name other than the true name of the debt collector’s business, company, or organization
- Collecting any interest, fee, charge, or expense not authorized by the original debt agreement or otherwise permitted by law
- Accepting a check or other instrument postdated by more than five days, unless he or she notifies the consumer, in writing, of any intention to deposit
- Threatening to deposit a postdated check or other postdated payment instrument before the date on the check or instrument
- Causing communication charges, such as charges for collect telephone calls and telegrams, to be made to any person by concealing the true purpose of the communication
- Contacting a third party and disclosing the existence of the debt
- Using a postcard or envelope to contact a consumer about a debt which indicates the nature of the debt collection business
- Failing to advise the consumer of his or her rights in its initial communication, including the right to dispute a debt
- Failing to provide proof of the debt or judgment (or failing to cease collection until done), if requested in writing by the consumer within 30 days.
A debt collector who participates in any of the above, or similarly abusive, deceptive, harassing, misleading, false, or unfair conduct, may be liable for: actual damages sustained as a result of the conduct; an additional payment of up to $1,000 to you; and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Fill out the Free Case Review form to see whether you may be able to get the harassing conduct to stop, and possibly recover some money for the harassment, without paying any attorney’s fees.